Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are two of the most prevalent STIs amongst the general public. They infect the throat, rectum and genitals. These two infections can be transmitted through condomless oral, anal or vaginal sex. The symptoms include a burning sensation in the genitals when urinating, white, yellow or green discharge, anal discharge, itchiness, soreness, bleeding, painful bowel movements and a sore throat. However, some people experience no symptoms at all, which shows how necessary testing is. Both infections can be treated with antibiotics; however you can still be reinfected. If left untreated, gonorrhea and chlamydia can lead to glaucoma or blindness, in some rare cases it may lead to sterility and increase one’s susceptibility to HIV. One can prevent these STIs by using condoms or barriers when having sex.
Another bacterial STI that can be transmitted from person to person through skin to skin contact of potential infection sites which include the genitals, anus, rectum, lips and mouth. Syphilis goes through three stages of infection. In the primary stage, small ulcers or sores develop around the infection site. These sores can sometimes be unrecognized and go away without treatment.In the secondary stage, a rash develops on the palms of the hands and the bottom of the feet; this rash will also go away even without treatment. Syphilis will develop into the tertiary stage if left untreated long enough, which can cause damage to the brain, heart, liver and bones. It can even lead to paralysis, blindness, dementia or death. Similar to gonorrhea and chlamydia, if left untreated syphilis can increase one’s chances of contracting HIV. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics; however, any physical damage caused by the infection cannot be reversed through said antibiotics. MSM made up 83% of primary and secondary syphilis cases in 2015 in the US.
Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV)
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted viral infections. It is spread through skin to skin contact during anal, vaginal or oral sex. There are many strains of the virus and some – such as 16 and 18 – increase one’s chances of getting certain cancers like vaginal, penis, anus, mouth and throat cancer. Other strains, particularly HPV 6 and 11 can lead to warts found mostly on the genitals or anus. Some individuals who have contracted HPV can be completely asymptomatic. The majority of HPV infections clear on their own; however, as discussed before, being exposed to HPV can lead to more serious health issues. While there is no cure for HPV once infected, there is a very effective vaccine. Results from clinical trials showed that the vaccine provided almost 100% protection against precancers and genital warts for Gardasil 4 and 9. To reduce the risk of genital HPV, one should use condoms and barriers. However, HPV is transmitted via genital skin contact so condoms can not provide complete protection.
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) I and II
Herpes Simplex Virus I and II is a very common genital or oral infection that lives in the nerve junctions and up to two thirds of people test positive for at least one strain. The virus is divided into two types – HSV I and HSV II. HSV I is transmitted mainly through oral to oral contact and commonly causes orolabial herpes or “cold sores.” HSV I can also cause genital herpes through oral to genital contact. While HSV II is sexually transmitted through skin to skin contact in the genital or anal area. Both types can be transferred even if the infected individual is asymptomatic. While there is no cure for HSV, there are medications that can be taken that reduce the frequency and severity of the outbreaks. Condoms and barriers can be used to prevent contracting genital HSV. A blood draw can be conducted in order to test for HSV I and II.